Evolution, Neuroscience, and Prosocial Behavior in Disasters

10 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2013 Last revised: 15 Jul 2014

See all articles by John Protevi

John Protevi

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

Date Written: August 7, 2013


The talk discusses three concepts before ending on a question. 1) It begins with "disaster politics": the difference between imagined individualist and violent responses (falsely seen as "necessitating" the securitization of relief efforts) and the reality of cooperative or "prosocial" behavior that sociologists have documented to be the overwhelmingly prevalent response to disasters. 2) The talk then moves to the biology (mirror neurons, empathy, sympathy) and evolution (altruism, kin selection, reciprocal aid, and so on) of prosocial behaviors and emotions. 3) The third topic is the claim that prevalent pre-State war was a selection pressure for group selection of prosocial behaviors and emotion, resulting in face-to-face in-group altruism. 4) The talk concludes by posing the question of functionalism: how do complex hierarchal societies and institutions use "horizontal" face-to-face in-group altruism to maintain bottom-up cohesion throughout a "vertically" structured society or institution?

Keywords: Evolution, Biology, Prosociality, Altruism, War

Suggested Citation

Protevi, John, Evolution, Neuroscience, and Prosocial Behavior in Disasters (August 7, 2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2300494

John Protevi (Contact Author)

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge ( email )

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